Are you really too busy for your own wedding? Part IIIb – Selecting Vendors – The Band

This is the fourth in a series of articles on planning your own wedding and preventing yourself from falling into the trap of thinking you don’t have the time to do so.

In Part I, I talked about the Venue and in Part II, the Budget; in the first installment of Part III I discussed selecting the photographer. Now I would like to tackle the Band.

Now in this article I will not discuss DJs as I do not understand them and have never worked with any. I believe that a wedding should have a band. The number of band members and types of instruments played depends on the number of wedding participants, wedding style and so on.

The band, that is the music the band creates, is the very backbone of the wedding. After the photographer, they are the most important vender you will deal with. How you handle them, what information you offer them and how much 'artistic freedom' you give them, will determine how 'frelech' - lively – your wedding will be.

Bands that really are not from hell and other stories

Let me start with a story – my daughter got married three years ago. Since high school she knew that she would use a specific band. The members of this band had been the subject of one of her films she made in media class (she majored in media in high school). At that time, they were a young, struggling band just starting out and after seeing the finished film they promised to play at her wedding. By the time she actually needed them for her wedding they were an established band and a "reasonably expensive" band, at that. Remembering their promise, they gave her a 'good price' and they were hired.

Everything was set for my daughter's wedding and then my daughter's almost-mother-in-law (let's call her "O") had an opportunity to hear this band at a wedding she attended about two months prior to our children's planned wedding. "O" hated them and became nearly hysterical when she realized that this band, this 'horrible' band, was set to play at our children's wedding. We all tried to reassure her that the band was wonderful, but she had witnessed the band herself and she was not happy (to say the least!).

Needless to say, we did not cancel the band (we had heard them at other weddings). They played at my daughter's wedding and they were WONDERFUL and "O" loved them!

What happened? We asked the band. They told us that at the wedding in question, they were told to play specific music and songs. They did not have freedom to play more lively music or play according to the mood (or help improve the mood) of the wedding party. When I say "help improve the mood", I mean pick up the beat or get the 'audience' up and dancing when they are not as lively as they 'should be'.

At my daughter's wedding they had freedom to play as they wished. Of course, prior to the wedding, the couple talked to the band and reviewed the 'rules of thumb' of when to play soft music, when to play lively music and everything in between, but nothing more. The band understood the personality of the wedding party and seamlessly answered the needs. Obviously "O" loved them and we all lived happily ever after.

Be nice to your band

Bands are as individual as weddings. Most bands are capable of playing a wide range of songs, in a wide range of languages and styles.

There are quite a number of bands, catering to the religious crowd, that will not play at a wedding that does not have a me'chetza (physical separation between women and men dancing) throughout the wedding.

Once again, determine what is your wedding style and level of religiosity.

As always, ask your friends who have recently married to recommend bands. You can check out the individual music videos found on many band web sites; but seeing the band perform LIVE is believing.

Give the band a list of songs that you are interested in hearing for the reception, bedaken, procession to the chuppah and then for the first dance after the yichud room. If you have special requests of songs in French, Russian, Arabic, etc., make sure your band is capable of delivering what you want. Every band (or nearly every band) will say they can sing in 50 languages and 500 styles – make sure this is true. But allow the band the room and 'artistic freedom' to play according to the audience. Your band should be flexible, happy and really "into" the wedding.

More stories – more lessons

Another story: I recently witnessed a wedding where the band – actually individual band members – nearly missed the bedaken and then in order to get closer to the kallah and chatan during this ceremony, actually pushed people out of the way. They should have been waiting next to the kallah or accompanying the chatan, as soon as the chatan finished with the Rabbi and/or as soon as the chatan began walking towards the kallah. This is not brain surgery. Professionals (bands, photographers, etc) should know how a wedding proceeds and to anticipate the time table involved.

Having said this; make sure your band is aware of your basic scheduling and make sure you tell them what and where you expect them to be at the most important junctures of the wedding.

One more story: I attended a wedding where the band did not play at all from the end of the chuppah/accompanying the couple to the yichud room and until the kallah and chatan came out of the yichud room, which was exactly one hour on the clock. The only sound heard in the hall was the sound of happy people happily eating. There is no excuse for this silence. The band should have played throughout. At the very least there should have been recorded music played at this time.

Throughout the entire four to five hours of a wedding, there should never be 'musical silence'. Firstly because a wedding must have music (unless you ascribe to the custom of playing no music at the chuppah itself, which is another story), secondly because you are paying for their musical entertainment throughout the event and thirdly, well there must be a thirdly, but the first two are really good enough.

What to expect/what to discuss with your perspective bands

Planning from beginning to end:

• The band should arrive about an hour-hour and a half prior to the reception time to set up sound and the like.  Keep this in mind when you do your over-all wedding schedule.

• The band should know the basic route of the kallah and chatan from the bedeken and through to the end of yichud.

• Make sure you know how many hours of playing are included in their basic fee.

• Make sure you provide the band with a list of preferred songs for the important moments.

• Make sure the band knows that there must be music throughout the event – I never thought I would have to write this – but there is always a first time for everything and you do not want your wedding to be the 'second time'.

• Find out what is their over-time fee, should you need it.

• Tell them about special events you would like to celebrate along with your celebration. I know this is a wedding, but grandma's 80th birthday should be mentioned.

• Tell them about any planned flash dancing or skits and the like and provide them – in advance – with music files (.wav and the like) should you wish to use them as 'backup' music.

I strongly believe that your band is only as good as you allow them to be. So find a band that 'makes you sing', make sure you cross every T and dot every I and then put on your dancing shoes and enjoy the ride.

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